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Orangutan, Armadillo, and Slime Mold to Be Sequenced

By Kate Ruder

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Comparative Genomics
Creature Features

Nine of the 18 organisms to be sequenced.
A Noah’s Ark of creatures will have their genomes sequenced, scientists announced this week.

The African savannah elephant, the European common shrew, the guinea pig, two species of hedgehog, the nine-banded armadillo, the rabbit, the cat, and the orangutan are among those chosen.

The National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI) will fund projects to sequence the genomes of a total of 18 organisms. A snail, a sea lamprey, a slime mold, two roundworms, and four other small creatures called a ciliate, a cnidarian, a placozoan, and a choanoflagellate will also be sequenced.

One reason for sequencing these particular organisms is their positions on the evolutionary tree. Another reason is that scientists hope these genomes will shed light on the human genome.

Two of the organisms are also directly involved in human disease. The freshwater snail Biomphalaria glabrata carries the parasitic worm that causes schistosomiasis, a disease that causes malnutrition, kidney failure, bladder cancer, and other symptoms in millions of people throughout the world.

Scientists are also sequencing the genome of the roundworm Trichinella spiralis which causes trichinosis, a disease passed on to humans through uncooked pork.

Five U.S. sequencing centers will carry out the genome sequencing: Agencourt Bioscience Corp., Beverly, Massachusetts ; Baylor College of Medicine, Houston, Texas ; Washington University School of Medicine, St. Louis, Missouri; and The Institute for Genomic Research, J. Craig Venter Science Foundation Joint Technology Center, Rockville, Maryland. Where and when each organism will be sequenced has not yet been determined.

In addition to the human genome, the NHGRI has sequenced or is currently sequencing a number of organisms including the chimpanzee, dog, mouse, rat, chicken, honeybee, two fruit flies, sea urchin, two puffer fish, two sea squirts, two roundworms, several fungi, and yeast. The NHGRI is part of the U.S. National Institutes of Health.

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